CAPS Student Hero: Isabella Mena

Hey slugs! This week’s student hero is our peer educator, Bella! It is Bella’s first year working with our program, but she quickly became a valuable part of our team. She is very kind, authentic and not to mention stylish! If you want to see her in action, she will be facilitating our Stress Less Workshop this Friday!

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

To relieve stress, I typically take time to myself to do things I enjoy such as go to the gym, go to the beach, or hang out with some of my friends. I think that no matter how busy you are, it is important to put some time aside for yourself!

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

Outside of school, I am really passionate about staying active. I really enjoy going on hikes, going to the gym, and just being outdoors! I really enjoy being in nature and appreciating the beauty around us.

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

If I could share one thing with my peers to know about CAPS is that your Peer Educators are here for you, and most importantly, happy to be here!

CAPS Student Hero: Nuria Villanueva

Hey Slugs! This week’s CAPS Student Hero is Nuria Villanueva! It is Nuria’s first year with the peer education program, but she has been anxious to contribute since her first day! Nuria is always trying to give back to her community, whether it be through CAPS or finding service opportunities on her own. Nuria’s most recent contribution to the group is our PEP Recruitment flier which we’ll be sharing soon! (P.S. You can catch Nuria as Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Del Mar Theatre this weekend!)

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

I relieve daily stress by listening to music, hanging out with roommates, going to the gym, and paying attention to my own feelings whenever I feel like there needs to be a pause. I do trust myself to take care of my life, especially my mental conditions. 🙂

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I am a volunteer at the Family Service Agency of Central Coast, and I also am a research assistant. For activities outside of academic curriculum, I enjoy doing sports, drawings, and hanging out with my dogs back home

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

CAPS is not a program for so-called “mentally-illed/weak individuals” — it’s a safe place to keep your little secrets and concerns confidential, while helping to maintain your healthy mental states. We all understand that it can be difficult opening up to someone who may be too “closed” to you, so why not give it a try at CAPS? 😀

CAPS Student Hero: Tina Wang

Hey slugs! Meet this week’s CAPS student hero, Tina! This is Tina’s second year working with the PEP. Tina worked with us two year ago and then we were lucky enough to have her return this year after having studied abroad! A fun fact about Tina is that she designed the banner for our blog as well as many of our fliers! Keep an eye out for the design of our self-care event later in the quarter, her most recent contribution.

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

I relieve daily stress by listening to music, hanging out with roommates, going to the gym, and paying attention to my own feelings whenever I feel like there needs to be a pause. I do trust myself to take care of my life, especially my mental conditions 🙂

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I am a volunteer at the Family Service Agency of Central Coast, and I also am a research assistant. For activities outside of academic curriculum, I enjoy doing sports, drawings, and hanging out with my dogs back home

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

CAPS is not a program for so-called “mentally-illed/weak individuals” — it’s a safe place to keep your little secrets and concerns confidential, while helping to maintain your healthy mental states. We all understand that it can be difficult opening up to someone who may be too “closed” to you, so why not give it a try at CAPS? 😀

CAPS Student Hero: Reed Asselbaye

Hey slugs! Here at CAPS we know it can be hard to keep your composure in the midst of midterms. Someone who seems to always be composed is this week’s second student hero, Reed! It is Reed’s first year working with the peer education program and his calming presence helps us all stress less! Keep reading to learn more about him and what he does to help his stress!

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

When I feel stressed, exercising is helpful because I feel less angsty when I’m moving my body. The cool temperatures in Santa Cruz are perfect for running outside, especially if I’ve been cooped up indoors. When I’m too tired to exercise, I have Uber Eats slide through and I enjoy a scrumptuous meal in bed.

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

In addition to being a CAPS Peer Educator, I’m an Academic Intern at the African American Resource & Cultural Center. I’m dedicating to improving the experiences of Black folks on campus as well as the broader community. Beyond those interests, I’m a strong enthusiast for Mariah Carey and Rihanna. Favorite songs are “My All” and “Kiss It Better” respectively.

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

I wish more folks could understand that seeking help for your mental health is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a sign of strength, because you’re able to acknowledge that you’re going through something and you’re willing to take control in some way.

CAPS Student Hero: Sareil ‘Reil’ Brookins

Hey Slugs! Not all of our peer educators are satisfied with just making a difference on campus and in our community at UCSC. Reil is a peer educator that goes above and beyond in helping others. She is currently working with the NAACP in Washington DC as a part of the UCDC program. CAPS is very proud of Reil and have missed her this quarter!

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

I love to take naps, call home, and meditate to relieve stress.

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I am super passionate about music, and contributing to the betterment of Black folks nationally and globally on a daily basis.

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

If I could share one thing to my peers about CAPS, it would be that it’s worth trying out no matter what you’ve heard about it — it is a resource we have access to as students that we should consider trying out before graduating.


CAPS Student Hero: Maria Hernandez

A kind presence in a community can go a long way. That is exactly what our peer educator, Maria, brings to our group. It is only Maria’s first year in our peer education program and she has already proven she is very dedicated to community service and helping others. Her kindness brings joy to our group and we are all thankful to have her!

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

Something that I do regularly to relieve stress is listen to music and take a couple of minutes to recognize the good things that happened in my day. Even if I had the worst day ever, being able to practice recognizing the little good things that happened helps bring up my mood. I also love going outside at night, wrapped in a blanket, and watch the night sky whenever it is clear and am able to see the stars. It helps distract me from the real world responsibilities and instead appreciate the nature we are in.

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I absolutely love animals, especially dogs. I currently have 3 dogs and I absolutely adore them. When I was little I used to know almost every single dog breed by memory. Dogs are literally like another best friend to me and they are always there for you! Something else I enjoy doing is playing tennis. I started playing it my junior year of high school and absolutely fell in love with it. Now that I’m in college, it is sometimes hard to find time to play, but whenever I have spare time I try to go out to the courts. Another thing I love to do is helping my community. I am currently in the Santa Cruz Rotaract Club where our mission is to basically help the community. Through volunteering we are able to help put up amazing events and just bring more joy to Santa Cruz.

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

Something I would like my peers to know is that CAPS is such an amazing and welcoming space for literally anyone. I feel that sometimes people think it is a scary place that you only go to when you are at your worst point, but it honestly it isn’t. All the staff we have are so understanding and are really there to help you. CAPS has workshops you can attend throughout the quarter, join groups, and even use a relaxing massage chair we have in our building! Along with this they can help direct you towards the right people and the right resources.

CAPS Student Hero: Janely Cardenas

What makes someone a leader? Some may list traits like caring, brave, insightful or responsible. Janely Cardenas, one of our peer educators, is all of those things. Janely is the administrative coordinator for the CAPS peer education program. She is a dedicated individual in all her endeavors, including many organizations she participates in outside of CAPS. All of us at CAPS are proud to work with someone as inspiring as Janely and happy to share things about her with you all!

What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

I tend to always be stressed out, whether it’s from school, family, friends, extra curricular activities, or just my own inner funk; I constantly have to calm myself down. In order to relieve some of that stress, I like to do breathing exercises at ocean views on campus. I also like to journal and write down what has been on minding before I go to bed or if I have time in between classes. But, if I do end up having any extra time, I also like to go to the gym and run on the treadmill, then finish off with some yoga poses.

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I am extremely passionate about social justice and fore coming social change. Within this advocation for social change, discussions about inaccessibility to mental health care services, the decolonization of everything, the tearing down of white supremacy, the dismantling of patriarchy, the understanding of collective well-being, and the brainstorming of how militant sisterhood can be achieved, fuel my spirit and overall existence. Aside from being a social change advocate, I love to write, take photos (of myself + others), dance cumbia, cloudy beaches, and spending time by myself (as well as with family, especially my mom).

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

As a low-income Latina, I know that CAPS can be intimidating and even scary! But one thing that I’d like you all to know is that CAPS is here for all types of students! They are here to help, support, and assist you with different aspects of your life – not just academics! As a Peer Educator of CAPS, I am here to help you locate resources in order to make sure that your mental, physical, and emotional health are in great shape; but, I am also here to advocate for adequate representations of marginalized experiences and narratives. With that being said, I am not only a part of PEP to help reduce the stigma around mental health, but also to be a friend to you and be someone whom you can trust and rely on!

CAPS Student Hero: Jorge Roque

Hey Slugs! As the holiday season approaches us it is always good to reflect on what we are all thankful for. Expressing gratitude has been proven in positive psychology to uplift mood Someone that our Peer Education Program is very thankful for is our Tabling Coordinator, Jorge! So meet our CAPS Student hero this week, Jorge Roque! It is Jorge’s second year with us at CAPS and we do not know what we would do without his kind disposition.

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What do you do regularly to relieve stress?

Something I do to relieve stress is that I set time aside throughout my days where I do literally nothing. I give myself this time to perform self-care routines as simple as eating, talking with friends, or just listening to music. Something else I do is that on certain weekends I go out to the beach or go hiking, where I disconnect from my phone and just take in all this town has to offer.

Tell us something you’re passionate about outside of school (clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

Something that I am very passionate about is photography. I usually carry my camera out with me when I’m out hiking or at the beaches surrounding the city. I love takinIMG_4139 2g pictures of things, such as the different paths around campus or even the amazing sunsets!

If you could share one thing you would like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

Something I’d like to let my peers know about CAPS is that we’re here to help in any way we can. It may be scary at first to come up to the offices, but there’s people here that want to see you succeed and reach your full potential!

CAPS Student Hero: Kyle Retzer

Hey Slugs! Can you believe the quarter is halfway over? Most of us are in the middle of midterm season right about now! So to add a little cheer to our mid quarter struggle, I’d like to introduce you all to a very special Peer Educator, Kyle! Kyle is one of our new Peer Educators and they are already making a huge impact in our team with their positive attitude and dedication to destigmatizing mental health! Without further ado, meet Kyle!

kyle-retzerWhat do you do regularly to relieve stress?

With school and everything else that goes on in our busy, college lives, stress is inevitable. To relieve that excess amount that I’d rather not have, I usually relax and play some video games or watch some TV with my housemates and friends. Sometimes, I will also take a trip back home to visit family and get away from everything.

Tell us about something you’re passionate about outside of school (e.g., clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I would say that I am pretty passionate about music as I have been playing instruments since I was 9. Throughout my years of playing, I’ve learned six different instruments. Currently my baby is the tenor saxophone, which I’ve been playing since high school. I’ve played a lot of different styles and genres but my favorite to play is jazz.

If you could share one thing that you’d like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

It might seem really scary and a daunting task to reach out, but CAPS is an extremely welcoming environment and all of the staff there truly care about you and your well being. There are many different resources accessible, all for you and your well being.

Kyle is a second year student, majoring in Intensive Psychology, and they are affiliated with Cowell College.

CAPS Student Hero: Ila Rutten

Hello Slugs! Can you believe the quarter is almost over? We’re nearly there! Today we’d like to introduce one amazing Peer Educator, Ila. She helps run this blog, among several other PEP duties. Thanks for everything these past couple quarters, Ila!

UntitledWhat do you do regularly to relieve stress?

I’ve come to accept that I’m a disorganized person. Unless I make deliberate efforts to stay clean, my desk disappears under a pile of papers and my bed is overwhelmed with a mountain of clothes. My brain is the same way: my anxieties and worries expand and saturate my mental space unless I take action.When I incorporate some gentle structures into my routine to stay organized, I feel calmer and I have more mental clarity. A few “mental hygiene” routines help me focus on the present moment and cordon stressful thoughts to the appropriate time. When I wake up, I start the day by mentally listing 3 things that I’m grateful for as well as my primary intention for that day. Later, I do a few minutes of meditation (I think of this as strength conditioning for my brain). They’re simple rituals, but keeping my life lightly structured helps me from becoming overwhelmed by stressful thoughts.

Tell us about something you’re passionate about outside of school (e.g., clubs, hobbies, interests, volunteering, activities, etc.)

I try to stay as involved as I can with my family’s chocolate-making business, and a lot of my friends and family work in the restaurant industry. Growing up in this environment as turned me into an incurable “foodie”, but I’m also very concerned with the more practical issues surrounding food like sustainability, environmental conservation and food security. Also, I like to dabble in writing, drawing, and playing music. I think I just reached a turning point where I can accept imperfection in these hobbies. Not only does it feel freeing, I think this attitude has actually made me a better artist!

If you could share one thing that you’d like your peers to know about CAPS, what would it be?

I want people to know that they should never feel shame for feeling like they need help with mental health issues. There is far too much stigma surrounding mental health care, and I firmly believe that we should all practice “mental hygiene” and regularly check in on our minds. Most of us automatically brush our teeth twice a day, or apply bandages and antiseptic to cuts and scrapes. I envision a society where we also have habitual practices that serve our mental health.

Ila is a fourth year, double majoring in Politics and Psychology, and she is affiliated with Stevenson.